Nov 9 2022
Eric Nelson

Four Pro Wrestlers Whose Day Jobs Needed Digital Advertising


Professional wrestling is, at its core, a morality play. Good versus evil. Championship stakes with over-the-top theatrics. Predetermined performance art, yes, but it still involves two or more athletes running, jumping, and falling; being shoved, slammed, and shouted at; 20 minutes a night, 200 to 300 nights per year, all around the world, for as long as their bodies can stand it.

The wrestling profession isn’t meant for just anyone—your local schoolteacher, plumber, or dentist, say. 

...Or is it?

There was a stretch in the mid-1990s when the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) introduced a number of wrestlers whose characters were defined by their day jobs: a garbage man, a circus clown, and even a federal tax agent (who wrestled in a dress shirt, dress pants, suspenders, and a red tie…as one does). 

Today, marketers in these real-life industries use digital advertising, not dropkicks, to improve their bottom lines and meet their business objectives. Kind of makes you wonder: If these wrestlers were around today, would this era of digital advertising help them to attract and earn enough business to stay out of the ring? Would online sales, critical app downloads, or lucrative appointments have deterred them from moonlighting as masked marauders?

We think there’s a case to be made here! Read on to learn about four former professional wrestlers whose “day jobs” would have benefited from today’s digital advertising ecosystem:

Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.

Accompanied to the ring by the din of dental drills over ominous orchestra music, and billed as living in “Decay-tur, Illinois,” Isaac Yankem, D.D.S. (get it? “I. Yankem”?) joined the ranks of WWE in July 1995 and was gone by September 1996, without leaving much of a cavity in the company’s roster. Never a champion, he debuted as the personal dentist of veteran heel Jerry “The King” Lawler. Well, a crown for a king and a crown for a tooth, we suppose.

The premise for the evil extractor was that “no one likes to go to the dentist,” but we know that’s not always true. Dentists are not only critical to our oral health, but they and their hygienists are often quite lovely people! Let’s get to the root of the problem: In this hyperlocal industry, dentists want to create awareness among nearby residents, promote their services, and generate phone calls or form fills leading to new appointments. In today’s world, Dr. Yankem could:

  • Use a programmatic DSP to access built-in hyperlocal capabilities to find locals who need their teeth cleaned.
  • Curate a programmatic “custom-site list” that includes local radio, television, and newspaper dot-coms to create awareness in the local community.
  • Keep a paid search campaign always running—focusing on local services ads—including ad extensions for patient reviews and contact information, for times when people search phrases like “dentists near me”.

T.L. Hopper

With his trusty plunger “Betsy” and his “muddy” work boots, pro wrestling’s plumber, T.L. Hopper, debuted in July 1996 (let us take a load off your mind: The T.L. stands for “Toilet Lid”). He was wiped from the roster by June 1997, with long stretches finding him without a single televised match. And because nothing’s funnier to a young professional wrestling fan than potty humor, Hopper’s “theme song” was the sounds of toilets flushing. For two minutes. Wow, this idea stunk.

This corny character was portrayed as though plumbers have a crappy job, but many plumbing, electrical, and heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) businesses are wildly successful. After all, nearly every home or apartment needs regular maintenance on any of those components. This industry thrives by booking a steady stream of appointments, plus creating awareness for seasonal promotions and parts or labor discounts. Instead of letting his career tank, Mr. Hopper could have used the tools of today’s trade to:

  • Create unduplicated awareness of important maintenance subscriptions in the high growth digital channel of connected TV.
  • Test and learn with his connected TV video asset and extend promotional messages with pre-roll and native video advertising on local community websites.
  • Capture valuable data and drive consideration with a paid social lookalike audience campaign that would predict his most profitable net new customers. 
  • Retarget website visitors who forgot to schedule their appointments with reminders via display and social media ads.

The Goon

In hockey, the “goon” is the player who beats up or takes out the opposing team’s best member. He’s rough, he’s tough, he’s… going to wrestle professionally in boots that look like ice skates? Yes, The Goon debuted in July 1996, led to the ring by organ music over the arena’s public address system—and very little reaction from the public itself. He lost far more matches than he won during this period, and besides a couple one-off returns, The Goon was gone by March 1997.

Sports franchises large and small require lots of ticket sales—season tickets, single-game tickets, promotional night tickets—to boast success, and many have also branched off digitally to generate social media engagement, loyalty, and advocacy. One has to wonder: If The Goon had access to today’s digital advertising capabilities, might he have avoided the matchups in pro wrestling to stick with the face-offs of his beloved hockey? Thoughts for The Goon’s marketing team:

  • Generate awareness by contextually and keyword targeting relevant content—including local sports coverage, sports apps, and entertainment guides—using flashy creative that matches your athletes’ energy.
  • Hype up viewers with high-impact rich media creative to allow people the opportunity to engage and get excited about your team.
  • Take advantage of a focused listener with streaming audio to garner material reach and use the sounds of game-time excitement to keep their attention.
  • Dynamically retarget sports fans with the next game’s information seamlessly integrated into your display unit.
  • Bonus: post last night’s Kiss Cam on social—people will love to share the awkward smooches, earning you more visibility!

Dean Douglas

“Fingernails on a chalkboard” is more than just an idiom to describe a particularly annoying noise—it was the spine-tingling sound at the start of the theme song for Dean Douglas, an arrogant schoolteacher who stepped into the wrestling ring wearing a graduation gown, who would grade his opponents (often failing them), and who carried a paddle he called “The Board of Education.” To reinforce his snobbery, Douglas was billed as hailing from “the University of Higher Learning.” (Raise your hand if you applied there. Anyone? Anyone?)

Why would a schoolteacher feel compelled to wrestle professionally? Did Dean Douglas just need the stress relief? Perhaps the Institute of Higher Learning needed a little strategic nudge. Here are a few ideas for how the school’s marketing department could effectively connect with prospective students today:

  • Set up retargeting across platforms to reengage students who spent time on your website but didn’t apply.
  • Take advantage of social platforms with highly unique and targeted data sets—LinkedIn can find graduating seniors who are just now applying to schools!
  • Natively engage them with advertising that is seamlessly formatted to fit in the form and function of contextually relevant content.
  • Determine what a student’s attention is worth to you, and then choose your KPIs and set up your bids accordingly so your customized plan stays within budget.

After the Final Bell

With modern digital marketing tools, these pro wrestlers may never have had to enter the ring (you can decide for yourself whether that’s a good or bad thing). One tool that would have been a game-changer for all these performers? Digital advertising automation, a solution that streamlines key tasks within the campaign process to help marketers save time, plan campaigns efficiently, optimize for better performance, and measure their way to victory.

Want to learn more? We wrote the rulebook on advertising automation, and you can download it right here (not to ring our own bell, but it’s probably more reliable than the rulebook for wrestling!) Read all about how the complexity and fragmentation of the ad industry have created an urgent need for automation, and how a comprehensive automation system can give you the confidence to earn championship wins for your organization. We’ll be in the front row cheering you on!

Get the Guide